1. Falafel from Falafellas
I can’t say enough good things about Falafellas. I had read about it prior to our visit on a couple of other blog posts and was intrigued immediately. The real thing lived up to the hype. Falafellas offers a small menu – two sizes of falafel wraps and two sizes of meatball wraps (sadly, I didn’t have a chance to return and sample the latter). I wanted to squeeze in a vegetarian meal somewhere and I’m huge on falafel, so Jeff and I both went with the ‘giant’ sized falafel wrap.
It’s made to order and truly massive. I’ve never seen rounds of pita bread this size – none of that ‘pita’ bread nonsense that’s actually a tortilla you get from cheap kebab spots. They pile on around 5 sizable falafel rounds, add in fresh veggies, a legit bangin’ yogurt sauce (no other adjective does it justice – sorry, y’all) and a mad tasty spicy sauce. The falafel was cooked perfectly and hit the right balance of flavorful herb to garbanzo ratio. It really tasted fresh, nothing like a pre-fried falafel piece you might find elsewhere.
As Falafellas is only an order up window on a main pedestrian street, you’ll have to walk and eat or enjoy it on a bench along with some talented Athenian buskers. I attempted to finish it in one sitting, but consuming the whole thing required that AND our walk back to the hotel. A meal this size was shockingly less than 4 euros. They should call them
falafellas falafel saints.
Falafellas: Aiolou 51, Athina 105 51, Greece
2. Minced Meat Kebab
I had seen this on plates EVERYWHERE as we walked through the Monastiraki Square’s surrounding area and knew that whatever it was… I wanted it. Tourists and locals alike were being served these plates of meat and pita every time I looked up! I never loved the sound of ‘minced meat’, but it was clear I had to go all in. What was all? Lamb and beef. The lamb flavor was strong but tasted great alongside the fresh, crunchy red onions, juicy roasted tomatoes and fluffy pita underneath, which soaks up the dripping moisture from the meat. These were also served as an option with a yogurt sauce – which I sadly didn’t get to try. A heads up, these are most definitely plates for sharing. I tried it at Thanasis.
Thanasis: Mitropoleos 69, Athina 105 55, Greece
3. Kolouri Thessalonikis & Ring Pastries
Kolouri Thessalonikis, aka Greek sesame bread rings. Before we even knew what these were, it was obvious that they were a Greek specialty. Every cafe and even street vendors carried Kolouri Thessalonikis. They look like braided bagels. Jeff tried a sesame one and it was filled with something like cream cheese. We noticed a lot with other flavors beyond sesame, like asiago cheese.
I’m not sure if this falls into the category of Kolouri Thessalonikis, but I found some other ring-shaped pastries at our favorite morning coffee cafe, Mondial Espresso, with a more flaky bread texture – not chewy bread texture – which were filled with savory fillings, such as spinach and cheese. Many were on the sweet side, as pictured below, it’s filled with chocolate!
4. “An oriental taste of Athens” at Feyrouz
Feyrouz is absolutely worth mentioning here because it encompassed Greek, as well as Lebanese and Turkish tradition throughout their menu. The menu is one of the most appealing I saw throughout our entire trip. I’m linking it here so you can see for yourself. Beautiful wraps and salads with the most unique combinations and spices. It was one of the most vegetarian-friendly menus we saw as well.
Feyrouz: Karori 23 & Aiolou Str., Athens
5. Baklava and tasty alternatives
Everyone knows baklava is the signature dessert of Greek cuisine, but try switching it up with galaktompoyreko! (Try saying that five times fast) Similar to baklava in that it’s a sticky, syrup-y, honey soaked phyllo pastry, it holds back on the nuts and is actually filled with a sweet egg-based cream filling. We tried it at this cafe in central Athens.
6. Savory phyllo dough pastries
The Greeks have it all right with this way of eating, I tell ya. I’ve never had so many ingredients paired with a phyllo crust or pocket – especially not with something as heavy as meat and cheese. In the first picture, you’ll see a square slice of a pocket filled with meat, cheese, onions, pimentos, sundried tomatoes and garlicky spices. It was a phenomenal street food breakfast from Mondial Espresso. Only costing a few euros, it was one of my favorite ‘meals’ from Athens. The second pic was taken at a central cafe on New Years Day. It was something along the lines of quiche in a phyllo crust – I could have eaten ten slices.
7. Kebab plates
I think the photos speak for themselves here, but… Basically deconstructed wraps that you’re used to seeing everywhere, these allow you to enjoy each element individually – the roasted tomatoes, the chicken (or in Jeff’s case, the veggies), the tzatziki, the pita – in all its glory. The food was pretty good at Quick Pitta – not the best, but not the worst – the prices were median range (to be honest, a little high for kebab) and the location was great – in the central part of the city where you can people watch at the busiest intersection.
Souvlaki may have been my favorite item to have had in Greece, even more than the minced meat kebabs and the chicken kebab. Souvlaki is traditionally grilled pieces of meat on a skewer and as simple as it sounds, whatever method they use makes it out of this world juicy, delicious and flavorful. The photo below was taken at a cafe in central Athens near Syntagma Square, but the absolute best souvlaki I tried was further out from the center at The Station Gyros & Souvlaki.
Seemingly a bit random and not exactly on theme with Greek cuisine was the pie shop we stumbled across on New Years Eve. The Pie Shop was a small storefront with all different types of pies – those of American, Jamaican, Italian, French, Russian and Spanish influence! For example, the American blueberry and pumpkin pies, which we got tiny samples of, were awesome and so cute – all of the pies are miniature.
I bought the feta cheese pie and snacked on it for several straight days at our hotel. It was fluffy, tangy and delicious. I would totally recommend this shop.
The Pie Shop: Voulis 16, Athina 105 63, Greece
10. Noodles and Rice at Noodle Bar Eatery
While I could have eaten Greek for every meal, we did choose to switch it up on New Years Day after our exhausting trek to Kolonaki and Mount Lycabettus. This was a rather time consuming activity (how dare we go too long without snacks!), so by the time we returned to the central part of Athens, many restaurants were closed and we were starving. The smell of Noodle Bar Eatery pulled us in, as did their one-of-a-kind, neon and pop art decor.
Noodle Bar has a huge menu and tons of options for vegetarians – it was nice to not have to scour a menu too hard for once. I tried stir fried noodles and Jeff tried Indonesian fried rice. We were totally satisfied!
Noodle Bar Eatery: Apollonos 11, Athina 105 57, Greece
11. Drinks and bar snacks at The Dude bar
Our favorite place to spend our evenings in Athens was a Big Lebowski-themed bar, The Dude Bar! This place had it all. The drinks were great – and strong. The lovely sweet and funny bartenders even shared a couple of shots with us. The music played both nights we went was absolutely fantastic and funky. When we went on New Years Eve for their party, we felt right at home with the reggae dub dj projecting sounds from Dub Stuy and Chronixx. We would absolutely recommend this place. They even supplied complimentary cheeseburgers, hot dogs and snack-y muffins for the night of NYE – uhm, amazing! It stays open late and is quite central, so we were able to easily walk between here and our accommodations.
The Dude Bar: Kalamiotou 14, Athina 105 60, Greece